The Chicago area has three reported cases of E. coli infection linked to a massive nationwide recall of General Mills flour, public health officials said Thursday.
The illnesses occurred in Chicago, suburban Cook County and McHenry County, according to Melaney Arnold, a spokeswoman for the Illinois Department of Public Health. A fourth Illinois case was reported in Brown County, in western Illinois.
General Mills recalled several varieties of Gold Medal flour Tuesday after an investigation led by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention identified 38 cases of E. coli infections in 20 states connected with the products. The cases were traced back to flour produced in November at the General Mills facility in Kansas City, Mo.
People began getting sick in December, according to the CDC. Ten people have been hospitalized, and no deaths have been reported.
Symptoms of E. coli infection include diarrhea and abdominal cramps about three to four days after ingestion.
The recalled flour includes several sizes and varieties of Gold Medal, Gold Medal Wondra and Signature Kitchens flour. The flour was sold at Jewel, Safeway, Albertsons and other stores, according to General Mills. The specific products being recalled are listed at www.generalmills.com/flour.
The CDC-led investigation showed that three-fourths of the people infected with E. coli reported using flour the week before they became ill. About 40 percent said they tasted raw homemade dough or batter. The CDC advises consumers to throw out any recalled flour, avoid eating raw dough and wash thoroughly after working with dough.
In a statement Tuesday, General Mills said it was issuing the voluntary recall out of an "abundance of caution," and that to date, "E. coli has not been found in any General Mills flour products or in the flour manufacturing facility." The company also stressed that consumers should use safe handling practices when working with flour.
"As a leading provider of flour for 150 years, we felt it was important to not only recall the product and replace it for consumers if there was any doubt, but also to take this opportunity to remind our consumers how to safely handle flour," Liz Nordlie, president of General Mills' baking division, said in a statement.
The company did not immediately respond to a request for comment Thursday.